A box of Cheeze Makes for a Fun Weekend

Last week, I placed a “hefty” order with Amazon.com.  I would venture to say that 90% of was pure “cheeze” entertainment.  Movies and TV shows on DVD, that while never going to win any awards (at least none to be proud of!), were staples of Staurday and Sunday afternoon fare back in the day.  Kids today are spoiled with the various movie channels, genre specific channels, and the advent of home videos that the joy that many of us felt, lounging in front of the TV (it was analog-RIP, and we only had the over the air channels), on a weekend afternoon, watching absolutely rotten movies and TV shows.  Heck, ABC even had Friday Night Movies as a regular feature.  But all that has been consigned to the dust bins of history, and the nostalgia of us that remember.

So, as I said, I placed an order with Amazon, dropping a small wad on some of those cheezey movies and shows of my youth.  OK, so not all of it was cheeze.  I did get the first season of NCIS, so I’ll exclude that from this commentary.  But the rest of it was pure Saturday morning and afternoon fare.  Some it was “retro,” dating to the early to mid 1970’s, a bit from the 80’s, and a bit that is “modern.”

For “conniseurs” of such fare, I highly reccomend looking for the “Midnight Movies Double Features.”  I picked up two of these, at a very reasonable price ($8-$9 each).  The first was one I had wanted for a long time.  I kept passing it over for quite a while, but since I could not find it locally anymore, I broke down and ordered it through Amazon.  This is the “Midnight Movies Double Feature” of “The Land that Time Forgot,” and “The People that Time Forgot.”

I first saw these on a Saturday afternoon, probably sometime around 1979 or 1980.  I think local channel WRGB 6 showed them.  “Land” is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story.  In short, it’s about the survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship who are picked up by a German U-Boat in 1916, and find themselves on an island where evolution works in a very different fashion.  The big star of the movie is Doug McClure.  Fans of the Simpsons may find the name tantalizingly familiar, and with good reason.  The Simpson’s character “Troy McClure” is a combination of Doug McClure and Troy Donoghue, two “heart throbs” of the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Fans of “classic” Dr.Who will notice one Anthony Ainley, aka The Master, in this movie as well.

This is far form Academy Award winning film making.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s a fun action adventure movie.  It doesn’t try to be anything other that faithful to the original source material.  The same can be said for the sequel, “The People That Time Forgot.”  The sequel does have a late in the film appearance of McClure, but the main star is Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) and Sarah Douglass (later to appear as the evil queen in Conan the Destroyer).  Both films can be considred “period pieces,” given that the original ERB stories were written at the end of WW1, and reflect that era wonderfully.

The other “Midnight Double Feature” I picked up has “War Gods of the Deep” and “At the Earth’s Core.”  “At the Earth’s Core” is another Doug McClure vehicle, this one also having Peter Cushing and Catherine Munro.  This is another movie based on an Edgar Rice Burrough’s story.  It’s a straight forward Victorian science fiction story, much like many of ERB’s contemporaries like Jules Verne.  Simple story line is a Victorian era scientist and his assistant build a giant drilling machine and travel to a strange land beneath the Earth’s crust.  Just like any of the various versions of “Jouney to the Center of the Earth,” it has the same basic premise, and a few anachronisms.  Even so, it’s another fun bit of esacpism, a good way to kill a couple of hours without feeling cheated.

“War Gods of the Deep” is a Vincent Price movie.  Unlike the previous three films, this one is loosely based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe (City in the Sea).  It is also known as “The City Under the Sea” and “The City in the Sea.”  The film also features Tab Hunter, another one of those pretty boy actors of the “beach bingo” era.  The film has a slight Lovecraftian over tone, with an under water city, and merman type slaves.  Anyone who has played the video game “Bioshock” will see more than a passing resemblance to many of the settings and characters.  In many ways, this is a fairly typical Vincent Price piece.  Price plays a tyrannical, megalomaniacal ruler of the under water city, whose own ambitions eventually lead to his downfall.

What needs to be remembered in all four of these films is when they were made.  The most recent is from 1976, 33 years ago now (ouch!).  So one must keep that in mind when viewing, as the special effects and such are definitively dated.  However, once you get beyond that (which is a problem for many younger viewers), one will find some find performances, excellent cinematography, and quality writing.  If you are a fan of action adventure movies, and not just the shooting and explosion packed films made since the 80’s, then definitely drop the $15-$20 for these two double feature movie packs.

This brings me up to a staple of Saturday morning viewing in the mid-70’s, Land of the Lost.  Oh this is terrible TV is so many ways, yet is thoroughly enjoyable none the less.  Yes, I know, the effects are horrible, the green screen work is lousy, and all too apparent.  The stop motion animation is not even up to Ray Harryhousen standards.  The acting is B-List at best, and dinner theater at worst.  Yet the actual stories, the writing is rather good.  It’s a shame to a degree that such visions were never properly realized on screen.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s will remember this series, as long as they had access to a TV on a Saturday morning.  Park Ranger Rick Marshall and his daughter Holly, and son Will are trapped in another dimension, brought there while rafting.  The show lasted three seasons, and a total of 43 episodes.  The show wandered from prehistoric creatures (all those dinosaurs), to dimensional time travelling (Enik, The Marshalls, and various “guests”), to high end Science Fiction (the pylons, weather control, etc).  This was another creation of Sid and Marty Krofft, also known for creating HR Puffnstuff.

OK, I fully and freely admit that I got this one purely for nostalgia’s sake.  So far I’ve watched the first disc of season 1.  It’s both as bad, and as wonderful as I remember it being.  Perhaps that’s just the rose colored glasses of youthful memories coloring my perceptions, but what the heck.  If anything, I appreciate the writing far more than I ever did as a child.  The effects are truly, painfully dated, and on the cheap.  Yet is has this wonderful Dr.Who quality to it, though I must say that Dr.Who and the BBC did it all better, and on a tighter budget.  Even so, I found it quite relaxing to lie on the couch  and watch this.

I did not however, get the lunch box set.  I just got the regular boxed set of all three seasons.  I just couldn’t justify the extra cash for the lunch box edition.  Not to mention I’d have no place to put it.  😉  I’m gathering that these sets have been released to coincide with the motion picture version about to come out.  Previously, the seasons had been available, but only as individual sets.  I do not plan on going to see the movie version.  Why?  One, it’s a Will Ferrell movie.  I don’t care for anything in which he stars.  They tend to be terribly unfunny.  Ferrell is best as a supporting actor, not a lead.  Second, I just can’t get past the idea of Holly getting the hots for Rick.  Eeeewwwww.  I don’t care if in the movie she’s not his daughter but an admirer.  I have been forever poisoned by the original series characters, so all I can see is an incestuous relationship, even if it isn’t.

I also found a great deal on all three seasons of Tripping the Rift.  This animated series had a good run on the SciFi channel on cable a few years back.  This humorous animated series follows the crew of the Jupiter 42 on its escapades across the universe.  They go from one one misadventure to another.  This is a fairly humorous send up of just about every SciFi show ever made.  Obviously swipes at Star Trek and Star Wars abound, along with far more subtle, and not so subtle references to many other SciFi classics and not so classics.

This is definitely an adult oriented series.  Between the language and overt sexual references and banter, and graphic, though cartoon violence, this cannot be reccomended for anyone under the age of 14.  Even so, I still find this to be a fun romp through space.  It is witty and incisive in its writing, and in the voice acting,  It’s pretty much all CGI, and that is very clear.  But it works extremely well for this series.  Dorph Bobo alone is worth the price of admission.

So, I should be more than set for entertainment for a while.


Bluray Review: Star Trek TOS Season 1

Ahhh, Star Trek, The Original Series (TOS), on Bluray.  Many a geek has been waiting for this to be released.  This release is second only to Star Wars in terms of geekdom waiting for it.  If any series is desrving of a high definition treatment, Star Trek is it.

Fans will not be disappointed by this set.  The episodes have been digitally remastered, and though I’m only through disc 2 (there are 7 in the set), so far I have not seen any print errors that slipped through.  The picture quality is simple out standing.  Sharp, clear, vivid, makes the viewing aspects of these espisodes thoroughly enjoyable.  Sound has also been remastered into 7.1 surround sound, which does enhance a lot of the “backgtound sounds” of each episode.  Things like the electronic hum of panels, the “whossh” of the doors, all comes through in a “natural” way.

The big things to be found is in the reworked special effects, digitally enhanced matte paintings, and the reworked special effects in space shots.  For the most part these new effects are seemlessly integrated.  They are not done in such a way that they appear out of synch with the episodes.  Well, for the most part.  In the very first episodes, such as “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the enhanced effects can be a bit jarring.  This is mostly due to the surrounding technology being a bit “behind the times” to produce say a screen image next to it.  Even so, using the same episode as an example, they have done some wonders to enhance the over all feel of the episode and story.  A great, if subtle example is in how they digitally tweaked the matte painting backgrounds for Delta Vega, tweaking colors and such to better reflect the stated time of say in story, and to give greater depth to the painting to enhance the sense of scope.

Purists may still rejoice though.  The episodes are also on each disc in their “original” though remastered formats.  Original mono sound track, original effects and all.  These versions are “merely” digitally cleaned up, but otherwise left unaltered.  There is the ability to switch between the two versions while watching, so one may compare the original recordings with the new enhanced versions.  It’s quite an interesting thing to do.  Though as usual, your milleage may vary.

The special features are a mixed bag so far.  There is the usual bits on “making of” and some commentary.  The first disc has a “double enhanced” track for “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  One one side you have pop up information boxes on items and characters, providing a bit more depth to some of the one shot characters and special items seen in the episode.  On the other side you get some commentary from a variety of persons, some involved in the remastering, some in the original episode, and Bjo Trimble (who can be annoying).  Paul Carr (Lt. Lee Kelso in the episode) steals several moments with his commentary.

Any fan of Star Trek, or of SciFi in general should get this set.  At around $100 it’s not cheap, but it is oh so worth it.

Blu-Ray Movies

Well, I now have 14 Blu-ray movies.  A variety of current and past releases.  Since getting my PS3, and purchasaing movies on Blu-ray, it has become apparent that some movies definitely benefit from the blu-ray treatment, while others gain nothing, or in a few cases, lose something.

So let’s take a movie by movie review of what I’ve got so far…

The Fifth Element:  This one should be the poster child for Blu-Ray.  I saw this in the theatres when it came out.  I bought it on DVD.  I got it on Blu-Ray for Christmas.  As my brother said, “It looks better on Blu-Ray than it did in the theatre.”  And I have to agree.  Pop this one in on a Blu-Ray player, with a surround sound system, on a good sized HDTV, and you will see what we mean.  The effects are supremely sharp, and some of the flight scenes will induce a sense of motion sickness if you’re prone to it.  This is a must have for anyone with a Blu-Ray player and HDTV.

Blazing Saddles:  This Mel Brooks classic is one of those movies that just doesn’t get much from being on Blu-Ray.  Perhpas in part because the original print is not all that, the video portion isn’t any sharper or more defined.  The sound is improved over standard DVD though, but this is not a rush out and get movie for Blu-Ray.  The one aspect worth having is the specials, including the pilot episode of the still born TV series.

Blade Runner (5 disc collection):  This is another candidate for being a Blu-Ray poster child.  Ridley Scott’s film-noir SciFi masterpiece does benefit from being on Blu-Ray, especially his “final cut” version.  The earlier prints don’t gain all that much, from the theatrical version to the later edits, but are improved over the DVD versions, and light years over the now ancient VHS version.  The Final Cut is truly impressive, as Ridley Scott went back over the movie once again, and enhanced not only the print quality, but the effects, and the sound has been reworked.  No self respecting Blu-Ray owner should be with out this one.

Kingdom of Heaven:  Another entry from Ridley Scott.  While not on a par with Blade Runner (or Alien), this is a solid movie, and does gain from being on Blu-Ray.  Due to the movie having a lot of dark settings, a good amount of detail is lost on standard format.  The Blu-Ray format, combined with an HDTV, brings out all the glorious details of this historical drama.  Not one for the squeamish, the blood spatter in the fight scenes is very graphic, it’s amazing exactly how much detail is captured.  If you add in surround sound, you get a very immersive experience.

Justice League: The New Frontier:  Animated features, especially those done in “traditional,” that is non-cgi animation, could be problematic on Blu-Ray.  Older titles, just about anything not made since 2000, may actually “degrade” in Blu-Ray, as the lack of detail in the animation will show more readily in this format.  That said, new releases like New Frontier, done with current animation techniques lose nothing.  The real benefit to be had here will be in the Blu-Ray disc’s increased capacity, which can be filled up with all sorts of special features.

30 Days of Night:  Much like “Kingdom of Heaven,” it’s all about the details.  As this movie is very dark, standard definition DVD’s just can’t bring out all the details that abound in this one.  This was a very refreshing vampire movie, where the vampires are monsters, and not some emo-Eurotrash.  Blu-Ray brings out the monstrous appearances of the vampires, and the setting details are amazing.  As ana example, look at the details of the attic where the survivors hide.

Spiderman 3:  This was the first movie we got on Blu-Ray.  It was simply incredible, and hooked me on the Blu-Ray format.  Just the opening credits alone on this one are worth watching in Blu-Ray.  The effects are definitely sharper in Blu-Ray, from the Sandman’s transformation to the Venom suit.  A definite must buy for Blu-Ray owners.

Pirates of the Carribean 3: At World’s End:  Just about any current release movie with lots of CGI effects greatly benefit on Blu-Ray.  Pirates is no different.  Every thing is sharper, with all the details coming through.  This really shines through in scenes where the ambient lighting is dark, like caves and cabins.  If you like this series, then this should be on your get list, along with the first two.

The Brother’s Grimm:  We got this one on a whim, having not previously seen it.  Over all it’s not bad, and has a lot that gets enhanced from being on Blu-Ray.  This one has a lot of CGI special effects, that come through in very impressive fashion in HD format.  If you want to see what modern CGI effects can achieve, and not have to pay too close attention to the movie, then this is a good candidate.  If you can get it for $20 or less, it’s worth while.

Superman-The Movie:  I thought this one would be better on Blu-ray than on standard defintion.  I was wrong.  If anything, being on Blu-Ray makes this one seem dated.  It’s still a good movie, but the effects look lesser with enhanced resolution.  Fans are better served by watching the standard DVD version on an upconverting DVD player.

Goodfellas:  Really, there wasn’t much to be enhanced here.  Yet somehow, the over all effect is improved.  I can’t put any specifics as to why though.  Yes, the picture is sharper, the sound is improved, but it doesn’t show through.  Not like the movies with special effects.  Comparing this to the regular DVD edition, and you can see improvement, moticable improvement.  But this is not a showcase title.  Even so, worth getting if you like it.  You will not be disappointed.

The Departed:  This is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long while.  It’s Scorcese’s best since perhaps “Taxi Driver.”  Again, it’s in the details where Blu-Ray improves things.  All the little things that get lost in lesser formats are easily seen in Blu-Ray, from Matt Damon’s aprtment to the tenements, to Jack Nicholson’s hide outs.  While the movie itself blew me away, watching this in Blu-Ray really blew me away. 

Dragonball Z-Broly:  I haven’t watched this one.  But my wife and duaghter have.  They were suitably impressed with it over standard DVD, even in upconvert players.  From what I’ve been told, the biggest thing was getting used to the surround sound format, not present on the standard DVD releases.  The other advantage here is that both movies fit on 1 disc, as opposed to two regular DVDs.

Black Hawk Down:  Continuing with my mini Ridley Scott film fest (by accident I assure you), comes a more recent entry.  Based on the actual events that happened in Somalia, this one is a must see IMO.  The cast is terrific (Josh Hartnett, Orlando Bloom, Tom Sizemore, Ewan Macgreggor), the sets spectacular, the cinematography superb, sound, effects, it all adds up.  Blu-Ray really brings it all together in a way that surpasses the standard DVD release.  Pop this one in, turn on the surround sound, and turn off the lights.  It will be one heck of a ride.

I’m now looking forward to seeing several other things on Blu-Ray.  The Star Wars movies top the list of course.  Star Trek is not far behind, more so with the reworked special effects on the original series, and the movies.  I’d love see to the old Disney SciFi film “The Black Hole” on Blu-Ray.  I have it on regular DVD, and it does not look dated at all.  A reork of it for Blu-Ray would be awesome.  Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy should also be impressive in Blu-Ray.  The wealth of details to be seen should become outstanding on Blu-ray.  Recent releases such as “Iron Man” are also going to be “must haves” for me on Blu-Ray.


Random thoughts

Very few things say Baseball like Vin Scully calling a game.  The guy has been doing it for some 50 years now for the Dodgers, and still has anectdotes and stories he hasn’t used before.  That and he does it all by his lonesome, no color man needed.

 Han shot first George! And no Eric, C3PO is not gay, just British. ( http://blacktygrrrr.wordpress.com/2007/07/01/c3po-fraggle-rock-and-the-log-cabin-republicans/) *Edit: Direct link provided*

George Carlin was right.  It’s not money that makes the world go round, it’s stuff.  And it’s amazing how much stuff you can fit into any given space.  Then when you get more space, you wonder how you ever fit what you got into a smaller space.

Mark Steven Johnson should not be allowed near another comic book movie.  He killed DareDevil (with a big helping hand from Ben Afleck), and turned Ghost Rider into a mediocre movie (when it could have been great).  Somebody give Avi Arad a clue please!

Yankees suck.  Had to be said.

There’s a rumor out about a new Star Trek movie.  Supposedly it will take place during Kirk’s early years in Star Fleet, with Chirstopher Pike as Captain of the Enterprise.  Could be a proising new begining of the franchise. (Matt Damon is rumored to be playing the young Kirk)

“It’s hard to bring together a nation that has 300 different kinds of cheese.” -Charles deGaulle

Gun control is hitting what you aim at. (Classic T-shirt wisdom)

Hey people, Malls are not daycare centers!